In NBC’s About a Boy, 30-something bachelor Will (David Walton) is wealthy after composing a hit Christmas song: He impulsively buys a $500 margarita machine, hosts parties in the afternoon when everyone else is working, and seduces women. Surprisingly for a show targeted at families, the casual sex of Will’s lifestyle comes up regularly in episodes and not just in conversations. Then an eccentric divorced mom, Fiona (Minnie Driver), and her socially outcast son, Marcus (Benjamin Stockman), move in next door.
You know where this is going. Will finds himself drawn out of his bachelor world and into his neighbors’ lives, where he reluctantly becomes a father figure to Marcus. Will teaches Marcus baseball, builds a tree house with him, and lets him eat ribs while his New Age vegan mom isn’t looking.
About a Boy recently wrapped up its first season, and NBC has renewed it for a second. The show is loosely based on the 2002 movie About a Boy, which is based on a 1998 novel by Nick Hornby. The underlying premise is that Marcus needs both a mother and a father as he’s growing up. Fiona is a mom overflowing with love and attention, but her maternal instincts regularly put Marcus in social binds that send him running to Will. Fiona fills a piñata with healthy apple slices and carrots instead of candy for Marcus’ birthday, has a dorky secret handshake with her son, and sings duets with him.
Will’s clear role is to help Marcus learn to be a man, and in the process he finds that he needs Marcus in order to grow up himself. Will functions in a world of adults, though: his closest friend and confidant is mostly happily married and has children. In some ways the show is a corny throwback—Fiona, Marcus, and Will talk to each other across their backyard fence like in a 1990s sitcom—but it’s a welcome one.